How are you enjoying/surviving #SnowZilla? Keep posting those pictures … and stay safe out there.

For us, this week is actually heating up a little! It’s already been very busy. We have LOVED seeing old friends come through this past week, and give us the chance to serve them (once again) for this year on their taxes.

Our calendar is getting full for the next few weeks, so if you have not yet contacted us to set up a time to discuss your taxes, now is a GREAT time to make that happen. Give us a call ASAP: (410) 224-2600.

After all, would you rather spend 18 hours going it alone — or have your trusted advisor do it all for you?

And I hate to be so “tax heavy”, but, well … ’tis the season, after all. Because this is the week when you will begin getting most of your tax-related mail. Organizations have until January 31 to send most documents your way, and here’s the list of forms you should be looking for in the mail, and online (from any employer, vendor, client or anyone else with whom you had a taxable transaction last year):

* Wage earners, watch for your W-2 forms, one from each employer.
* “Other income” (like a state tax refund, or government benefits) is shown to you on Form 1099-G
* Prize winnings — Form W-2G
* Most canceled debt (but not all) is reported as taxable. In which case, you’ll get Form 1099-C
* 1095 Forms if you purchased your health insurance through a Marketplace or exchange

Be very careful about your 1099’s: Each one is linked to your SSN, so if you fail to report it, you are almost certain to be audited. So, when you receive them, open them right away to check for errors. If you report something differently than what the organization sent you … again, audit risk. So you want to be on top of those, and contact the organization ASAP if there is a discrepancy with your records.

Often, they can fix it before it is sent to the IRS itself. If not, then we have to ask them to file a corrected form and it will have to get cleaned up after the fact on the return. This hassle is just another in a long line of reasons why it helps to have someone handle this stuff on your behalf.

I thought I’d wrap up with some intel on a rapidly-exploding scam targeting taxpayers around the country, and perhaps give you an idea to let off some steam and even enjoy the process if the scammers target you…

Valerie McLaughlin’s
“Real World” Personal Strategy Note
‘This is a Final Notice from The IRS Phone Scam, and Other Warnings
“I know in my heart that man is good. That what is right will always eventually triumph. And there’s purpose and worth to each and every life.” – Ronald Reagan

In case you didn’t already realize it, “tax season” (as we professionals refer to it) is a ripe harvest for spammers, scammers, phishers and con artists of every stripe.

When you pause and consider, it makes sense. After all, we’re dealing with A) significant sums of money (and information about it) PLUS B) fear (and loathing) of the IRS.

So if and when you get a voice mail from a person purporting to be from the IRS, it makes sense that it might throw you off a little.

Before I fully address that, let me also give you some other news.

The list of states who are delaying state tax refunds (which, perhaps obviously, are different from the often-larger FEDERAL return refunds) is growing larger. As of this writing, it stands at: Illinois, Louisiana, and Utah plus the recent new additions: Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Carolina. These states are taking extra caution against theft during transmission of identifying information for tax returns.

And another thing too! Popular tax software, TaxACT just reported a small data breach (story: TaxAct Notifies Customers), which comes on the heels of last year’s widely-reported data breach of TurboTax (ABC News video: Turbo-Tax Data Breach).

So again, caution against data thieves is a perfectly normal reason to utilize a professional for your taxes (our Enterprise-level software has very strict security protocols).

But back to the subject at hand: The IRS or Treasury Department will almost NEVER contact you by phone, and certainly not in order to issue some kind of “final notice”. Many people are receiving voice mails purporting to be from the IRS, when in fact, there are criminals on the other end of these calls.

If you receive a call like this, here’s what to do (taken from the IRS’ page on the matter):
• Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Use TIGTA’s “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page to report the incident.
• You should also report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your report.
If you think you may owe taxes:
• Ask for a call back number and an employee badge number.
• Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS employees can help you.
• Or, if you would rather not land in phone-tree oblivion with the IRS, you can give us a call: (410) 224-2600 [This last one, ahem, wasn’t on the IRS website — but of course, it’s very true.]
Lastly — please, for the love of Pete, don’t walk through the tax preparation process alone! Let us help. It’s what we love to do.

Warmly,

Valerie McLaughlin, EA
(410) 224-2600